HOW TO BE SINGLE (USA/15A/110mins)
Directed by Christian Ditter. Starring Dakota Johnson, Alison Brie, Leslie Mann, Rebel Wilson, Anders Holm.
THE PLOT: Newly single after several years in a relationship and believing she wants to discover who she is while alone, Alice (Dakota Johnson) starts her new life in New York City. Although she quickly befriends Robin (Rebel Wilson), she quickly learns that the single life isn’t quite all that it is made out to be. Meanwhile, Lucy (Alison Brie) is so desperate to get married that she has created an algorithm to find the perfect guy, Tom (Anders Holm) goes from one one night stand to the next, and Meg (Leslie Mann) is trying convince herself that she is fine on her own and definitely doesn’t want kids.
THE VERDICT: Dakota Johnson plays Alice as the wide eyed girl new to the city – Taylor Swift’s “Welcome to New York” playing over her arrival into the city and everything – who sets out to have new life experiences. There is not a lot to Alice other than indecision and an annoying innocence, so Johnson manages the role fine since it is below the skill she displayed in ‘A Bigger Splash’. Rebel Wilson reprises her role as the loud mouthed slutty friend, Anders Holm plays a sleazy bartender, and Alison Brie plays the manic pixie girl obsessed with getting her white wedding, although not a hint is given that marriage is the start of something, rather than the end. Elsewhere, Leslie Mann does well enough with a role as a workaholic doctor who has convinced herself – rather badly – that a baby is not in her plan, Damon Wayans Jr plays David, a man unable to let go of the past, and Jake Lacy tries his best to buck the trend of stereotypes by playing a young man who has always dreamed of being a stay at home dad.
‘How to be Single’ takes its name from Liz Tuccillo’s novel, but other than a character named Alice, the film seems to have little to do with the story of the book. Instead of a character who travels the world looking for herself and finding a way to be happy on her own – cliché, but it could have been better than the finished result of the film –screenwriters Abby Kohn, Marc Silverstein and Dana Fox have reduced the story into stereotypes; the slutty friend, the ingénue, the wedding crazy one, the commitment-phobe and the workaholic. The dialogue sounds as though it is taken straight from a self-help book or – even as it notably takes the mick from ‘Sex and the City’ – a column written by Carrie Bradshaw 15 years ago. In trying to create an aspirational message in the film, the story dissolves from women not needing to be in a relationship to be fulfilled into one about women somehow feeling the need to apologise for not being in a relationship by the time they leave college. Thankfully, we are all one read of a book by Cheryl Strayed and a magnet on a pulley to help us open our dress zippers away from being self-actualised The story jumps throughout the space of a year, with motivations disappearing in the wind as scenes need to be played out. Arguments happen seemingly because the script says they should, and slut-shaming, relationship shaming and women shaming abound.
Director Christian Ditter, who last brought us the clichéd and half-baked ‘Love, Rosie’, brings us another clichéd and half-baked film in How to be Single. The story jumps through time seemingly at will, characters disappear and reappear at their own discretion and although the film could have been seen as Ditter’s apology for the clichéd and insulting ‘Love, Rosie’, it somehow ends up more insulting to women who want careers, don’t want children or are perfectly fine without a man, thank you very much.
In all, ‘How to be Single’ is a film that, on the surface, seems to celebrate women and the choice to be single, but instead succeeds in women being shamed for their choices, slut-shamed and reduced to stereotypes, while men are allowed to be as promiscuous as they like without fear or repercussion. The laughs are few on the ground and, while New York City looks fantastic and there are some good songs on the soundtrack, by the end, who really cares?
Review by Brogen Hayes

How to be Single
  • filmbuff2011

    Romcoms that come out around St Valentine’s Day should be approached with caution. It can go pleasantly right or horribly wrong. It can also fall somewhere in between, such as How To Be Single.

    The story focuses on the lives and loves of four New York women. Alice (Dakota Johnson) has been in a relationship with Josh (Nicholas Braun) for four years. Having met in college, Alice hasn’t had much time to discover herself or what she wants from life. So, the two of them decide on taking a break in the relationship. Alice moves to New York, where she starts working for a bank. This is where she also meets new BFF Robin (Rebel Wilson), who lives the single life as big and as loud as she can. Alice’s sister Meg (Leslie Mann), a nurse, has so far resisted the idea of having a baby. But she’s starting to change her mind and soon afterwards meets Ken (Jake Lacy), who is crazy about her. Finally, children’s writer Lucy (Alison Brie) flirts with barman Tom (Anders Holm), but she really just wants to settle down once and for all…

    Based on the book by Liz Tuccillo and adapted by Abby Kohn, Marc Silverstein and Dana Fox, How To Be Single is less a film about love – finding it, losing it, finding it again – and more a film about finding yourself in the inbetween periods when you’re single and have the freedom to do what you want. That’s where we find Alice for most of the film, as she flits back and forth between three very different men in varying degrees of commitment. What she really needs is time to herself, to find out what she really wants. The single life is not all fun and games. It’s also about loving yourself before you can love another again.

    It’s a simple message told in a straightforward manner, so don’t expect anything edgy, unpredictable or anti-romcom like the wonderful (500) Days Of Summer. How To Be Single plays it safe and familiar, but it’s still a lot of fun. That’s partially down to the cast, who are very likeable and hit their character beats with both dramatic and comedic ease. Most of the laughs come courtesy of Wilson, playing another outrageous character who lives life to the max. It’s like Hollywood has typecast this Australian actress as the supporting comedic sidekick for the foreseeable future. She deserves her own lead role at this stage. As with A Bigger Splash, Johnson proves to be an appealing lead marking out her own territory. Mann and Brie bring up the rear in good support.

    Director Christian Ditter previously directed the mediocre romcom Love, Rosie. How To Be Single is better, thanks to hearty laughs and a spot-on modern view of male-female friendships and relationships. It may not always work, but when it does it’s very enjoyable and hits high marks on the laugh-o-meter. How To Be Single is a moderately successful lesson in how to make a good romcom for a change. ***

  • emerb

    I’ve noticed that the romantic comedy genre has been going through a bit of a dry spell of late, I don’t see as many of them being released now. Last year, the only one that really stands out was the excellent Amy Shumer hit, “Trainwreck”, which was a huge hit thanks to its filthy, funny script and the sheer charm of its
    lead. For me, “How to Be Single” marks a positive step forward for the romantic comedy. It offers plenty of fresh, sparky humour to provide amusing comfort to single women on Valentine’s Day. Loosely adapted from a novel by Liz Tuccillo, it follows the romantic misadventures women of four single women over a year in New York. Admittedly, each story on its own would be rather dull but when brought together with crude wit and plenty of laughs, the movie really works.

    Alice (Dakota Johnson) is fresh out of college and has temporarily split up with her longtime boyfriend Josh (Nicholas Braun). She comes to New York City in search of love, adventure and so that she can find herself. Starting a new job in a law firm, she’s instantly taken under the wing of her party girl co-worker, Robin (Rebel Wilson). Outgoing Robin is her polar opposite – a brassy, bawdy, sexually
    voracious free spirit who is intent on showing the shy Alice how to enjoy all that New York City has to offer. This includes coaching her in the ways of singledom, which by her definition means never paying for your own drinks, sleeping with any available guy and going home only to shower.

    At home, Alice shares an apartment with her reliable sister Meg (Leslie Mann), who provides support and a couch to crash on. Meg is a successful, 40ish, single and overworked obstetrician who considers babies to be “tiny little love terrorists” that will ruin your figure, your identity, your career and your dreams – she never wants to have one. Needless to say, that feeling mellows around the
    time a really nice, younger guy (Jake Lacy) comes into her life.

    More peripheral to their stories is Lucy (Alison Brie), who’s tightly wound, marriage-obsessed and in need of serious therapy. She reads bridal magazines because she intends to marry asap, has signed up to 10 dating sites, creates algorithms designed to find Mr.Right and volunteers for storytime reading duty just so she can be near children. Lucy’s storyline about her desperate attempts to find a husband run parallel to the more central stories of Alice and her sister
    Meg, but is nonetheless engaging and amusing. By the end of the movie, several more characters, including Damon Wayans Jr. as a sensitive single father and Jason Mantzoukas as a loyal bookstore owner, will enter the fray.

    The cast is uniformly appealing and it’s all held together by a genuinely hilarious performance from Rebel Wilson. Wilson has superb comic timing and she is the driving force of the movie. She is the Aussie party animal who’ll go anywhere, any night, just as long as she doesn’t wake up alone the next morning and her goal in life is to add as many numbers to her little black book as possible.
    She is perfectly cast as the wild card to counteract Alice’s quieter, less confident, straight woman and while she doesn’t completely dominate the picture, she provides much welcome comic relief when it things look as though they might get bogged down in emotion and sentimentality. She also gets some big laughs using her physical comedy skills, like the part where she wiggles out of the back window of a taxicab. Johnson, in the central role of the fresh-faced Alice also seems far more relaxed and comfortable here than in “50 Shades Of Grey”.

    “How To Be Single” is a smart, raunchy comedy solely directed at women and would be a great choice for a girls night out. There are some sharply observed little moments that anyone who’s lived alone will recognise, such as Johnson lamenting that she’s not ready to be alone because she doesn’t know how to fix her own wi-fi. Peppered with laugh-out-loud moments, quiet chuckles, uniformly
    charming performances and appealing photography, it is one of the most
    endearing comedies I have seen in recent years. Admittedly, it’s corny, a bit predictable and at times rather ridiculous but not so much that you find yourself cringeing. At its heart, this is just a simple, lighthearted film focussing on the lives of four single women trying to make a go of it in a male-dominated world. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel of the romantic comedy genre but it doesn’t pretend to, it just works wonders with what it’s got. Well worth seeing……. but not a great choice for a date night!